17 Dane County youth housed at prison under investigation

17 Dane County youth housed at prison under investigation

The Dane County Human Services director says 17 Dane County youth are currently housed at a Lincoln County youth prison now under investigation by the Wisconsin Department of Justice and the FBI.

Lynn Green sent a letter to Dane County board members as well as Dane County Executive staff updating them about what she knew about the investigation into the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake juvenile prisons north of Wausau.  She says there are 14 youth at Lincoln Hills and three at Copper Lake. 

The Department of Corrections has said that an investigation is underway into issues of child abuse, sexual assault and misconduct at the Lincoln County facility north of Wausau.

“State staff have not contacted Dane County, as of this time, as to Dane County youths being involved in any maltreatment, as would be normal procedure,” Green wrote in an email Friday.  “This may or may not mean that no Dane County youth are involved in the maltreatment, of course, but it is a good sign.”

Gov. Scott Walker said Friday that the prisons were safe now that personnel and policy changes have been made.

“We want to make sure with personnel and policy that we can ensure the safety of everyone whether they are under the supervision of the Department of Corrections or whether they are staff and visitors,” Walker said.  “We want to make sure that at that or any other facility that we can absolutely guarantee the safety of the people who are there no matter what position they might have.

Walker says when the state investigation began about a year ago, it was focused on just a couple employees. He says DOJ informed him within the past two weeks that it was much broader than that.

The Department of Corrections on Friday released a list of 13 changes it was making at the youth prisons, including equipping guards with body cameras.  They will also be offering psychological and victim assistance for youth, have brought in new security supervisors, have created a new “youth injury panel” to review all injuries occurring at the facility, and will be evaluating “all cases in which force was utilized.”

Despite issues at this facility and ongoing problems of staff shortages and officer injuries at state prisons in recent months, Walker said he was not considering a change in DOC secretary.

“That’s not something we’re considering right now,” Walker said Friday.  “There has been a change in terms of the division, in terms of the facility, in terms of other staff and its premature for us to assess that.”